The course

The Cambridge Law course is uniquely challenging in a number of different respects:

(1) You will be studying a subject unlike any subject that you might have studied at school (including Law A-Level).

(2) Studying Law at Cambridge requires students to make use of, and develop, a very wide range of skills. Subjects such as Politics, Philosophy, Economics, and History are all highly relevant to the study of Law. The kinds of interpretative and analytical abilities required to make sense of the law and legal texts are not unlike those needed by students studying English or the Natural Sciences. The mental rigour needed to apply the law correctly to a problem scenario can be almost mathematical in nature. Writing essays on what the law should say on a range of controversial issues involves the development of rhetorical skills that will be familiar to students of Classics.

(3) The content of the law is constantly changing, and a given area of law will probably change even as you are studying it. Coping with and accounting for those changes requires Law students to possess a great deal of mental flexibility so as to allow them to adapt quickly to new developments in the law.

While uniquely challenging, the Cambridge Law course is also uniquely rewarding. Law students leave Cambridge endowed with:

(1) Skills – such as the ability to quickly master and summarise accurately huge amounts of information, the ability to express your views clearly, succinctly and persuasively, and familiarity with a large range of public policy issues – that are highly desirable for a wide range of careers, as well as in life generally.

(2) A highly prestigious degree that not only equips the holder to train as a lawyer in the UK without having to undergo a gruelling one year conversion course, but also opens the door either to pursuing law-related careers in countries – including the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – whose legal systems are based on the UK’s, or to pursuing careers working for organisations that administer transnational legal systems such as European Union law or international law.

For more information on what it is like to study Law please see our virtual classroom that we have created on the Pembroke website to help prospective students understand a bit more about the nature of law and what studying law involves.

 Law at Pembroke

**Please note that Pembroke does not accept applications from students who wish to study the affiliated degree in Law**

At Pembroke, we recognise how challenging studying Law at Cambridge can be, and aim to make it as easy as possible for Law students to succeed in their studies. Like other Cambridge Law students, Pembroke Law students are given regular supervisions in the subjects they are studying, along with Faculty-based lectures on those subjects. In addition, Pembroke Law students benefit from the following facilities:

  •  As soon as they arrive at Pembroke, Law students are given special sessions helping them to understand how to read cases, find their way around a Law library, write essays, and argue like lawyers.
  • All Law students at Pembroke are members of the ‘Essay Club’, under which their Director of Studies makes himself available twice a week to see any Law student who wants advice on an essay they have written or that they are working on.
  • In their second term at Pembroke, First Year Law students are encouraged to develop their writing skills by giving presentations to their fellow First Years on topics relevant to their First Year studies. This is done over dinner, allowing the First Year lawyers not only to help each other with their studies, but also bond and socialise together.
  • All Pembroke Law students benefit from being able to use the Pembroke Law Library (discussed further below).
  • Pembroke Law students are given unlimited supplies of ‘magic whiteboard paper’ to allow them to post up notes, and draw diagrams and plans, on the walls of their rooms.
  • In the run up to their end of year exams, Pembroke Law students are given regular access to their Director of Studies on an individual basis to discuss their work and go through past paper questions.


The one-to-one attention and help that Pembroke Law students benefit from has helped to make Pembroke one of the most successful Colleges in the University at which to study Law. But we continue to look out for any other innovations which will help to make it easier for Pembroke Law students to master the Law. For example, we are currently working on creating a website that will give Pembroke students a fast and easy to understand guide to all the principal areas of law they will be studying, so as to help them make quicker progress with their studies and free up time in their supervisions to discuss more difficult issues within the law.

For more information on what it is like to study Law at Pembroke, read this introductory guide for First Year Pembroke Law students that was composed by Tom Fletcher, a Pembroke law student.

 The Fellows

Pembroke benefits from having five Fellows involved with the teaching of Law. They are:

Nick McBride is the Director of Studies in Law. He teaches Tort Law, Criminal Law, Contract Law, and Equity; he is a specialist in private law. He is the author of the best selling guide on studying law, Letters to a Law Student (now in its third edition, 2013); the co-author (with Roderick Bagshaw) of a major textbook on Tort Law (now in its fifth edition, 2015); and the co-author (with Sandy Steel) of an introductory work on jurisprudence, Great Debates in Jurisprudence (2014).


Professor Trevor Allan teaches Constitutional Law, Administrative Law, and Jurisprudence. He is the author of numerous books and articles on public law (the law relating to the regulation of government power), including Law, Liberty and Justice: The Legal Foundations of British Constitutionalism (1994) and Constitutional Justice: A Liberal Theory of the Rule of Law (2003).


Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe  is a criminologist (with a background in sociology,  history and philosophy).  She teaches Criminology, Sentencing and the Penal System. She is a leading figure in the world of criminology, and is the author, co-author, or co-editor of numerous books on that subject, including (most recently) Handbook of Probation (2007), Sexuality Repositioned: Diversity and the Law (2004), Exercising Discretion (2003), and Community Penalties (2001).

Professor John Bell teaches European Union Law and Comparative Law. He is the author or co-author of a huge number of books on these and other legal subjects, including Principles of French Law (now in its second edition, 2008), Judiciaries Within Europe: A Comparative Review (2006), French Legal Cultures (2001), and Cross on Statutory Interpretation (now in its third edition, 1995).

Dr Sarah Nouwen is a University Lecturer in International Law. She has worked as a consultant for various NGOs and government departments on rule-of-law building and transitional justice (addressing past human rights abuses that have taken place in a state). From 2010-11 she was seconded to work for the African Union advising on legal issues relating to the creation of South Sudan.

 The Law Library

Pembroke has a first-class Law Library, occupying a specialised room in the extension to the Pembroke Library. It contains law reports, all the major UK law journals, up-to-date textbooks and monographs and collections of articles on all the subjects that Law students might study at Cambridge, and a computer and wi-fi for access to legal resources on the Internet. The Pembroke Law Library also has a ‘Personal Development Section’ made up of books on philosophy, morality, economics and thinking skills – books that are not about law, but important for the development of a Law student’s general skills. The ‘Personal Development Section’ also contains an extensive selection of law-related DVDs.


Pembroke usually admits around nine undergraduates a year to read Law, though numbers vary to reflect the quality of the field. In recent years we have had about 40 applicants per year.

No A-level subjects are stipulated or deemed inappropriate. Candidates apply with a wide variety of subjects. About equal numbers apply with an arts and science background. All applications are judged on an individual basis, and strictly on their merits. Many successful applicants have had a background in the International Baccalaureate, or Scottish Higher and Advanced Highers.

The University of Cambridge no longer requires its applicants for Law to sit the national LNAT (legal aptitude) test. Instead those who are called for interview will be required, when they come to Cambridge for interview, to sit a written test set by the Faculty of Law. No previous knowledge of the law or familiarity with legal judgements will be assumed or expected, and therefore no special preparation is needed or desirable. The purpose of the test will be to assess the candidates’ abilities to think and argue logically and express themselves clearly and precisely. We are looking for evidence of intellectual skills needed by a law student, not for existing knowledge about law. For further information about the Cambridge Law Test, click here.

Those who are called for interview will be given two interviews, each lasting 15 – 30 minutes. One interview will be a Law-related interview, almost certainly with Nick McBride. As with the written test, no previous knowledge of, or familiarity with, the law will be required for this interview – details about the at-interview written test can be found on the University of Cambridge website. Applicants will be asked to read some legal materials shortly before the interview and asked to discuss them in the interview. The other interview will be a general admissions interview with a non-Law Fellow. This interview will focus on the applicant’s general academic interests, and ability to discuss topics (not necessarily law-related) of mutual interest to the interviewer and the applicant.

Pembroke welcomes applications from students wishing to study Law who are currently taking, or who are planning to take, a gap year. However, our invariable experience over the last 15 years or so is that students who have taken a gap year find it harder to adjust to the demands of studying Law than students who have carried straight on from school into university. In order to minimise this problem in future, we would like applicants for Law who are currently taking, or who are planning, to take a gap year to provide some evidence that they have been, or will be, maintaining some kind of academic study or activity during their gap year.

Further information

More information about studying Law at Cambridge can be found on the University website here. Students interested in finding out more about what studying Law involves should check out our virtual classroom in Law.  Prospective students may be interested to read McBride Letters to a Law Student: A Guide to Studying Law at University (3rd edition, Pearson Education 2013). Students may also like to consult Nicholas McBride’s website.

Further enquiries about studying Law at Pembroke should be directed to Nicholas McBride. Further enquiries about admissions requirements for studying Law at Pembroke should be directed to the Admissions Office at Pembroke by emailing